Blasphemy OAP’s family ‘living worst nightmare’

Jasmine Rana and Tony Asghar with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Pic: PA
Jasmine Rana and Tony Asghar with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Pic: PA
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THE daughter of critically-ill prisoner Mohammad Asghar has made a tearful appeal to the UK Government to bring her father home after he was shot in a Pakistani prison.

Jasmine Rana, 40, said Mr Asghar’s family were living their “worst nightmare” as the 70-year-old grandfather, below, a grocer from Leith, fights for his life in intensive care after apparently being targeted by a guard at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

Mohammed Asghar. Pic: comp

Mohammed Asghar. Pic: comp

He was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in January after writing letters claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed. His family say he has a long history of mental illness which is not being taken into account by the authorities.

Ms Rana’s voice cracked with emotion as she appealed for government help.

She said: “This is our worst nightmare come true. Ever since news of his sentence reached us in January, we have spent every day fearing for his safety.

“The UK and Scottish governments assured our family that steps were being taken to keep our dad safe in prison. Obviously that hasn’t happened. Our father turned out to be at risk from the very people responsible for his safety.

“We are begging David Cameron and the whole of the British government to do everything they can to ensure that as soon as he is well enough to travel our father is brought back to the UK where he will be safe. Until then we want him to be kept in a hospital where he will be properly protected and treated.”

She described her father as “the sweetest and nicest person you will ever meet”, who came to the UK when he was 16 and went on to become a successful businessman and millionaire, and who also opened a school in Lahore and an orphanage in Rawalpindi.

She said: “Our father is very mentally ill and has been unwell for a very long time. He has now been in prison for four years and is basically being punished for being sick.

“The British government cannot stand by and let this continue. Our dad needs help now, otherwise it becomes too late.”

Mr Asghar was arrested in 2010 after a blasphemy complaint was made by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute. He had previously been diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia but the family’s solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said his illness was not taken into account during his trial.

Mr Asghar’s son, Tony, 41, said he had not seen his father for five years as he has been warned it would not be safe for him to travel to Pakistan. He said: “It’s killing me that I’ve not seen my father for five years. It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. We just want him back.”

Mr Anwar said Mr Asghar was shot as he lay on his bed in his prison cell and was hit in the back by a bullet.

He warned that Mr Asghar may die if action is not taken, and Mr Cameron will be personally responsible.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have raised our ­concerns with the local ­authorities at a senior level.”